Sometime ago, under long forgotten circumstances, I stumbled upon a little note in a book that was none too satisfying. It read as follows:
"Gulf of Alaska Carcass: At 100 ft. long and 15 ft. thick, this globster — beached in July 1956 — ranks as the largest on record. Its head measured 5 ft., 6 in. across, with 9-in.eye sockets set 42 in. apart. Its teeth were 6 in. long and 5 in. wide at their base. The creature’s crimson flesh displayed a coat of 2-in. Auburn hair. Sceptics assume it was a whale, although the largest known species — the blue whale, with a record length of 109 ft., 3.5 in. — has no teeth as described from the carcass. A sperm whale’s teeth resemble those of the unknown beast, but the largest specimen on record measured 67 ft., 10 in."
Naturally I was quite interested in the story behind this note, but being as it came from a book that refrained from in any way critically discussing the cases and events it described, there was not much more to garner. The fact that the carcass was mentioned as being a full 30 meters long puts it into a special category; few of the “unknown” or “mystery” carcasses are of such vast proportions. The almost distasteful veer of the author in deriding the “sceptics” for assuming it was a whale tells us that perhaps it is not the best source from which to get our facts, however. This attitude is common in this distasteful field created by incompetent charlatans so dedicated to forgery and – ironically – baseless assumption and speculation. It was, after all, the ridiculous, incompetent and overly imaginative adventurer Ivan T. Sanderson who claimed to have coined both the term cryptozoology (in conjunction with the perhaps less incompetent but nevertheless just as speculative and imaginative, Bernhard Heuvelmans) and the term globster for the formless masses of flesh that occasionally drifted ashore every here and there.
Most of those, we today know – and even in the 1960’s had good reason to think – are merely the remains of badly decomposed whales; formless Shoggoth-like mounds of blubber, rubbery and thick, yellowish white or discoloured, with the fibres of the flesh with decomposition turned into what might to the untrained eye look like hair. Of the measurements reported of the 1956 carcass, I can find no other reference at this time. The 100 feet length seems oft reported, but the more specific measurements of the head and the thick teeth seem not quite as common.
Thanks to the wonders of Wikipedia, however, on quite unrelated travels, I somehow ended up on the page for Cadborosaurus (the one that silly and perhaps less-than-scientific-in-conduct LeBlond thought appropriate to classify as a new species of reptile on the basis of a poor quality photograph of what is either the remains of a young baleen whale or a basking shark) and found another reference to the 1956 carcass:
"1956: Somewhere near Dry Harbour south of Yakutat, Alaska, a 100-foot long carcass was found with two inch long hair. Trevor Kincaid is quoted as saying “description fits no known creature.” W.A. Clemens identified the carcass as a Baird’s beaked whale."
Perhaps “Dry Harbour” is “Dry Bay”, south of Yakutat. The reference is to an issue of LIFE magazine from 8th of June, 1956 (which puts the date told by the earlier quote, from the 2009 book “Hidden Animals” by Michael Newton, into question). This issue I have not been able to find – but in an issue on August 8th, 1956, there is a picture and a short treatment of the carcass, which appears not to bear out the proportions nor the quality of the find (as is often the case). The carcass appears buried in sand – conjuring thought of the 1896 St. Augustine carcass – and a man standing before a plane holds up what is perhaps one side of the tail fin or one of the anterior flippers, the size of which is not such as to suggest that it is in fact from a specimen a full thirty meters long.
It is perhaps of some relevance that we mention the find that supposedly was discovered on Glacier Island, also in Alaska, not far from Anchorage, sometime in late November, 1930; a carcass that from initial reports was said to have been preserved in ice, and a full 42 ft (12.5m) long. Sensational news reports abounded with descriptions that seemed to subtly hint at a carnivorous dinosaur preserved by the ice – a not uncommon staple of science fiction at the time. The later reports told of a carcass in a sorry state of decomposition, with very little flesh remaining, and the length had shrunk to a meagre 24 feet (7.5m).
In light of the fact that the measurement of 100 ft (29.9m) seems to be an exaggeration of enormous proportions (the photograph suggesting, perhaps, at most, half that length) the identification of the specimen as a Baird’s Beaked whale (Berardius sp.) appears sound.